Welcome to the updated Slickdeals redesign beta. Learn more and give us feedback. Or, return to the classic view.

Search in
Slickdeals Blog

The Best of Credit Card Rewards Programs

bryantq 1,289 March 14, 2012 at 07:07 PM
Thanks to the growing number of credit card owners who take advantage of low APR’s or APR’s in general, a surge of credit card sign up and rewards programs have inundated all of our mailboxes. Credit cards are the ultimate test of responsibility because although you have more credit and more rewards programs to choose from, you also have to remember all your due dates and of course, all of your purchases.

Assuming the best credit card habits from our readers - having a decent credit score, paying credit card bills in full and avoiding cash advances or balance transfers - we’ve compiled a list of the best rewards programs available for each of your specific needs. These credit cards all have varying sign up bonuses that you can take advantage of and have little to no sign up fees and no annual fees.

Gas: The best gas card we have is the PenFed Platinum Rewards [penfed.org] Visa that offers 5% cash back for gas, 3% for groceries and 1% for everything else, regardless of what month it is or how long ago you signed up. There are two minor caveats in the deal: If you’re not affiliated with the military, there’s a $20 sign up fee, and the cash back comes in Visa cards that have to be redeemed in $50 increments ($1,000 worth of gas purchases).

Groceries and Books: The first of the two Sallie Mae cards that made it to our list is the Sallie Mae 5 Percent [salliemae.com] Visa, which gives 5% cash back for groceries up to $500, 5% on bookstores up to $1,000 and 1% on everything else. Percent cash back for this card is tiered until you can redeem $100 ($2,000 worth of groceries).

Dining, Books, Movies, and Music: The Citi Forward [citi.com] Visa offers 5 rewards points on dining and restaurants, books, movies and music and 1 point for everything else. The reason why the offer specifies ‘rewards points’ for this card is because Citi ThankYou points are not as easily redeemable and actually exchange for 6,500 points for $50.

Other credit cards that offer 5% cash back deals are Chase Freedom and Discover [discovercard.com], which have rotating categories quarterly. Until the end of March, Chase Freedom offers 5% cash back on Gas and Amazon purchases, while Discover offers the same deal for Gas and Entertainment. For the second quarter of the year, the categories switch to Groceries and Movies for Chase Freedom and Restaurants and Movies for Discover.

It’s also worth mentioning a few of the retailer-specific cards that have more than your regular card’s cash back. The Target REDCard [target.com] offers 5% cash back on all Target purchases including free shipping on online purchases. Amazon [amazon.com] and Buy.com [buy.com] cards each provide 3% cash back on the respective online stores and are also Visa cards, which give 1% cash back for all other purchases. For Costco shoppers who by now know that Costco only takes AMEX credit cards, there’s also the Fidelity American Express [applyonlinenow.com] card, which offers 2% cash back on all purchases.

If you only carry a money clip and have space for just one card, the default card to go with is the Sally Mae 2 Percent [salliemae.com]Visa Signature, which offers 2% cash back on everything. Just like the Sallie Mae 5 Percent however, this 2% card also has a tiered cash back program, where you have to accumulate 25,000 points be you’re able to redeem the full 2%.

Community Wiki

35 Comments

1 2 3
#2
I thought I'd also mention that you can use this credit card rewards calculator to help determine the optimal mix of cards for your entered spending profile:
http://www.creditcardtuneup.com/

For the Sallie Mae 5 Percent card, does anyone happen to know if they categorize Meijer stores as a "grocery store" eligible for the 5% cash back? (I looked for details of which stores or merchant category codes are categorized as "grocery stores", but couldn't find any details.)

Thanks in advance.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
Breaking Slickdeals Daily
17,902 Reputation
Web Dev
#3
Quote from joelmeu View Post :
For the Sallie Mae 5 Percent card, does anyone happen to know if they categorize Meijer stores as a "grocery store" eligible for the 5% cash back? (I looked for details of which stores or merchant category codes are categorized as "grocery stores", but couldn't find any details.)

Thanks in advance.
You can use this tool [infonow.net] to help determine it.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#4
What about if you have a spectacular credit score, always pay full outstanding balances and *don't* care about sign up fees or annual fees as long as you're overall getting a greater benefit?

Basically , are there even better credit card rewards programs if you're willing to put up with a sign up fee or an annual fee?
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#5
Quote from SP33DFR34K View Post :
You can use this tool [infonow.net] to help determine it.
Thanks! I hadn't seen that tool before.

It looks like Meijer is categorized by Visa under merchant category code 5411 which means "GROCERY STORES/SUPERMARKETS/BAKERIES". So, it would seem that Meijer would qualify for 5% cash back under the Sallie Mae 5% card. I've had trouble with Meijer earning "grocery store" category rewards in the past, even with Visa cards. This is a good sign though. Thanks again!
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#6
Quote from sachind1231 View Post :
What about if you have a spectacular credit score, always pay full outstanding balances and *don't* care about sign up fees or annual fees as long as you're overall getting a greater benefit?

Basically , are there even better credit card rewards programs if you're willing to put up with a sign up fee or an annual fee?
The only superior program I know of is for groceries. The AMEX Blue Cash Preferred will pay you 6% cash back on groceries, but it has a $75 annual fee. To my knowledge, for all the other categories cited in the original post, those are the best reward percentages you can get. However, if you factor in sign up bonuses (e.g. "$200 bonus after spending $500", "30,000 miles after spending $750", etc.) then, for the first year, there are cards that can net you a higher reward percentage in those categories, but, for year two and beyond, the deals cited in the original post are some of the best out there.

Note that there are other reward categories not mentioned in the original post for which you can do better than 2% rewards. For example:
  • Airfare: You can earn 5% rewards on airfare with the PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express® Card
  • Music, Movies, Video Game Rentals, and Sporting Events: You can earn 5% rewards in those categories with the MTV® Visa® Card From Capital One®
  • Office Supplies, Cellular Phone Service, Land Line Phone Service, and Cable Services: You can earn 5% cash back on those categories with the New Ink Cash Business Card (have to sign up for the card as a business).
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#7
Quote from joelmeu View Post :
For the Sallie Mae 5 Percent card, does anyone happen to know if they categorize Meijer stores as a "grocery store" eligible for the 5% cash back? (I looked for details of which stores or merchant category codes are categorized as "grocery stores", but couldn't find any details.)

Thanks in advance.
If you look at the terms and conditions gasoline is included as well as groceries. The redemption is at $25 for statement credit or check
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#8
Quote from Lightbulb View Post :
If you look at the terms and conditions gasoline is included as well as groceries. The redemption is at $25 for statement credit or check
Thanks. That's good to know.

Although, it looks like the 5% only goes up to $500 in combined groceries and gas spending per month; after that it's 1% for those categories for the rest of the month. Since I usually get to about $500 in groceries each month, I'd probably funnel all grocery spending through the Sallie Mae 5% card and then funnel all gas spending through another card like the PenFed VISA Platinum Gas / Cash Rewards Card.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#9
Please update the main article to point out that the Sallie Mae $500 grocery/gas limit is per statement/billing period...if not for the other posters I would assume this is annually or quarterly given Discover Cards meager 5% limits, which have recently improved... Thanks.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#10
If I go for the offers like 300 cash back after spending 500 in 3 months, and cancel the card with in one year, do I compramise on my credit ratings?
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
Breaking Slickdeals Daily
17,902 Reputation
Web Dev
#11
Quote from xplosion79 View Post :
If I go for the offers like 300 cash back after spending 500 in 3 months, and cancel the card with in one year, do I compramise on my credit ratings?
Just applying usually causes your credit to take a hit, but will recover in a couple of months. Canceling also does, but will take much longer to recover. There are many other factors like age of accounts, current credit you have, etc that could affect how long it takes to recover.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#12
Priceline credit card also offers 2% cash back on everything!

https://www.juniper.com/apply/Leg...id=0001202
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#13
I am looking to start getting into credit cards but wonder how long it takes for credit to recover if I start 3 new ones and leave them open. This matters because it will effect time-line for buying a house. Are we talking 2 months or 6? Thank you.

Is there a minimum credit score to sign up for the cards above / where would I find that?
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#14
How about Amex Blue Cash Preferred? Amex Site [americanexpress.com]
It is the BEST CARD EVER ............. for "diligent" SDers.

It gives 6% on groceries purchases (excluding superstores and warehouse club)

If your local grocer allows you purchase giftcards with your Amex, you will get 6% cash reward.
No card can top that.

One of my grocery has amazon, ebay, best buy, nike, restaurants, staples, etc. You get the idea, right?

I already racked up about $350 in cash reward in 6 months. Had I been more diligent I could have easily racked up $1000+ in cash reward.

And there is no limit on cashback like other cards mentioned here.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#15
Never heard about the penfed card. Pretty slickdeal if you drive alot all year round. See link above! Thank you!
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
Page 1 of 3
1 2 3
Join the Conversation
Add a Comment
 
Slickdeals Price Tracker
Saving money just got easier.
Start Tracking Today
Copyright 1999 - 2015. Slickdeals, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Copyright / DMCA Notice  •  Privacy Policy  •  Terms of Service  •  Acceptable Use Policy (Rules)